Saturday, June 30, 2007

4GW and Air Strikes

It's been a while since I complained about the war. This post will get me up to speed. Cernig and Fester have put together a pair of posts that fit together like a pair of boxing gloves illustrating that "there is no surer or faster way to lose in 4GW than by calling in air strikes."

First off, for those unfamiliar with the term, 4GW refers to Fourth Generation Warfare. Wikipedia provides CliffsNotes but in short it refers to conflicts between state-sponsored military enterprises and grass roots movements using tactics and strategies that most professional warriors would call not fighting fair. There is a whole academic and theoretical enterprise dedicated to the topic. The uninformed reader is urged to do some homework.

The reason that the Korean "Conflict" (still unfinished, by the way), the Vietnam "Conflict" (a wholesale loss) and the current debacles in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq were/are so messy is that US forces have not been able to "win" in the old-fashioned sense of the word. Winning in every case might involve the annihilation of whole populations of people whom we claimed to be trying to help. There is a curious contradiction to the line "It was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it."

Currently we are not destroying villages. Instead we are killing more non-combatants than perpetrators with the result that swelling numbers of those we are "helping" are becoming candidates for recruitment by the forces we are fighting. One of my earliest stories when I started blogging was about this very dynamic. Nihad Had to Die is a real story about real people showing how the clumsiness of conventional military tactics can cultivate enemies from among a population that might otherwise have been at least neutral, if not supportive of the mission.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban seem to be getting better at baiting US, UN and other conventional military forces. The last four years have provided them with lots of practice. Iraq and Afghanistan seem to have become training grounds for up-and-coming AQ and Taliban stars. Consider this...

Coalition Kill More Afghanis Than Taliban This Month

Following hard on accusations by locals in Iraq that 17 dead "Al Qaeda gunmen" were actually innocent civilians, comes even more shocking news.One set of air strikes in Afghanistan yesterday killed between 50 and 80 villagers, all civilians, according to locals - which means that in the month of June, coalition forces managed to kill more Afghani innocents than the Taliban did!
In Afghanistan, the civilian deaths caused by US and Nato-led troops have infuriated local people and prompted President Hamid Karzai to publicly condemn foreign forces for careless 'use of extreme force' and for viewing Afghan lives as 'cheap'. The increasingly fragile President has urged restraint and better co-ordination of military operations with the Afghan government, while also blaming the Taliban for using civilians as human shields.

Everybody knows that innocent people die in war. That's why we have the sanitary-sounding term collateral damage. What seems to have been forgotten is that collateral damage in old-fashioned wars was mathematically small compared with casualties from the main event. With Fourth Generation Warfare the numbers are the same or backward: often the targets are "collateral" as dead and injured non-combatants outnumber dead or injured perpetrators. Am I the only person to work this out? Where are the risk-reward people when you need them?

Airstrikes in Pakistan

Via Brian Ulrich at American Footprints is this report from the Jamestown Foundation on a new NATO tactic of calling in air strikes against targets in Pakistan...
Air strikes in general are not a good thing in a counterinsurgency. 4th Generation warfare expert, William Lind, asserts that absent a license to commit genocide, the proper number of air strikes called for by the counterinsurgent force in a year is zero...air strikes are increasing in Afghanistan with the predictable blowback as innocent civilians are being killed. Taliban and Pashtun nationalist guerrillas are able to predict the probable reaction of US forces and commanders to a sharp engagement --- call in air and artillery and blast the problem to smithereens --- and have been able to take advantage of that mindset.

We are fighting smoke with water.
What ever happened to the notion of winning hearts and minds? It was the right approach. Instead we are breaking hearts, changing minds for the worse and creating more problems than solutions.


fester said...

Hoot- Thanks for the link --- I just have to dispute your reasoning about the Korean War stalemate --- 2 large industrial, conventional armies in really good defensive terrain stalemated, that is a 2GW phenenomon, not a 4GW example

Hoots said...

Thanks. And you're right, of course. I threw that in for argument's sake because I heard a reference on the radio the other day drawing a parallel between the election of Eisenhower and our next president, whoever that turns out to be. Ike ran on a platform of "Elect me and I will get us out of this unpopular war." It worked and he did...more or less. At least the bleeding slowed.

4GW is still abstruse for most people's thinking. You may be my only reader who would catch that. Thanks for reading and commenting.

fester said...

4GW is definitely avant garde defense/military policy thinking. I recently saw a very interesting paper that offers a very strong critique of 4GW as the defense/security establishment equivalently of string theory --- useful but not really a good representation of reality ---

As far as the political parrallel --- I agree, that is a pretty decent probability right there.